Puerto Rico, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, is commonly referred to as the “Island of Enchantment.” Known for its beautiful beaches, the territory of the United States exports pharmaceuticals, rum and, unfortunately, stolen personal identities. According to the Eagle Tribune, identify theft or the sale of Puerto Rican birth certificates, Social Security numbers (SSN) and other personal identification information is on the rise. One disenchanted Puerto Rican woman knows about this identity theft problem up close and personal: another woman, we’ll call her ‘Jane Doe,’ is accused of using the victim’s SSN to rent apartments in multiple Massachusetts cities.
The story reports that the victim has never traveled from her home in Puerto Rico to the continental U.S. or to Massachusetts, specifically, for that matter. She was surprised to learn that ‘Jane Doe’ allegedly changed a letter in her name, dropped the second part of her hyphenated last name and is accused of renting a few abodes in Meuthen, Lawrence and Chelsea, using her SSN. (If true, this maybe an example of changing the name to protect the guilty.)
According to the article, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation linked ‘Jane Doe’ to a man suspected of drug trafficking and illegal re-entry to the U.S. Apparently, ‘Jane Doe’ allegedly rented an apartment using the victim’s stolen identity. The apartment complex manager found the information on the rental application to be suspicious and after further examination, the ICE investigator discovered that the defendant allegedly was using a fake Massachusetts driver’s license and the company, where she reportedly worked, was not accepting messages on its voice mail system. The investigator also discovered that ‘Jane Doe’ allegedly had rented three other apartments in the area.
The 24-year-old defendant is now in custody and faces charges of identity theft and misuse of a SSN. The investigation into the alleged scheme is continuing.
Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, anyone born there is automatically a citizen and receives a birth certificate. Birth certificates are the gateway to obtaining a driver’s license, passport, tax refunds, mortgages or welfare benefits. The theft of birth certificate information became so bad that Puerto Rico passed a law invalidating all birth certificates issued prior to July 10, 2010 and requiring citizens to apply for new versions. It just goes to show you how far you need to be willing to go to protect your personal identification.